The nation’s capital may not be a foodie town on the level of New York City or San Francisco, but its kitchens know how to churn out a top-notch bite of beef. Whether you prefer an upscale presentation of Kobe-quality chuck or crave the kind of bacon cheeseburger that no amount of napkins can keep together, there is a joint in Washington, D.C., that can meet your munching needs. — Alexandra Clark
Good Stuff Eatery
303 Pennsylvania Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20003
Spike Mendelsohn may not have taken top honors on Bravo’s TV cook-off “Top Chef,” but he has stolen the hearts of D.C. burger lovers with this Capitol Hill homage to flame-broiling. The prices are right (no burger is under $8), and the concepts cover every mile of the culinary globe, from a “Blazin’ Barn” topped with pickled radish and spicy Thai mayo to a Tex-Mex chili burger with decadent cheddar sauce. Vegetarians and calorie-watchers are not forgotten, however, with fried-Portabella mushroom and turkey burgers that vie for supremacy with the beefier options. Make sure to try one of Mendolsohn’s hand-mixed marshmallow milkshakes to wash everything down. Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
1725 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22209
President Obama is perhaps the most famous fan of this hotspot’s intensely meaty masterpieces — he has taken both Vice President Joe Biden and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev to lunch there — but partisans of every color will find a burger to love at Ray’s. Opened as a spinoff of the locally renowned Ray’s steakhouse, this no-nonsense kitchen churns out 10-ounce patties with toppings fit for a king. The biggest standouts are the au poivre, liberally coated in zesty pepper and pungent sherry, and a garlicky, Creole-infused number dubbed the “New Jack Zing.” Best of all, the kitchen makes good on its promise of patties cooked to order, with a medium burger arriving pinkish-red and deliriously juicy. Hours: Monday through Thursday and Saturday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
3529 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008
The kitchen at this chic uptown bistro is helmed by Frank Ruta, a former White House chef whose talent for elevating the gourmet power of the all-American burger has only increased since his days of cooking for the First Family. The half-pound patty, topped with truffle-scented cheese and served on a buttery brioche bun, comes with a piquant cole slaw but is best paired with a side of crunchy, salty shoestring fries. One important note: The pleasures of this classy patty can only be experienced in the front-of-house café. The back of the dining room spotlights a more refined tasting menu and has different hours. Hours: Monday through Saturday, 5:30 to 10 p.m.; Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.